On January 19, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Tiffany M. Cartwright to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Washington, to the seat vacated by Judge Benjamin Settle. Ms. Cartwright is a partner at MacDonald Hoague & Bayless, where she specializes in civil rights and employment litigation.
Tiffany M. Cartwright was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1985 and grew up in Kitsap County, Washington. She graduated with distinction from Stanford University in 2007 and continued to Stanford Law School, getting her J.D. in 2010. At Stanford Law, Ms. Cartwright was Co-Editor in Chief of the Stanford Law & Policy Review and a member of the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, where she helped draft two amicus briefs and one merits brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. She also interned in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Washington and the U.S. Department of Justice Public Integrity Section, which prosecutes public corruption cases.
Following law school, Ms. Cartwright clerked for Justice Dana Fabe on the Alaska Supreme Court from 2010 to 2011 and Judge Betty B. Fletcher on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 2011 to 2012. From 2012 to 2014, she was a litigation associate in Jenner & Block LLP’s Chicago office, where she focused on complex civil litigation primarily in federal court. She also maintained an active pro bono practice, representing individuals in death penalty appeals. Ms. Cartwright was part of two trial teams that litigated multi-week federal jury trials resulting in victories for Jenner’s clients; she was also the co-author of an amicus brief relied on by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hall v. Florida, which held that the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
In 2014, Ms. Cartwright joined the Seattle office of MacDonald Hoague & Bayless, a leading civil rights firm in the Pacific Northwest. She was named partner in 2018. Since joining the firm, Ms. Cartwright has focused on civil rights cases brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and employment discrimination cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Washington Law Against Discrimination. She has tried cases in state and federal court, argued before the Washington Supreme Court, and served as lead counsel in numerous state and federal employment and civil rights matters.
Ms. Cartwright is an experienced civil rights litigator, specializing in cases brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; this federal statute provides an individual the right to sue state government employees and others acting “under color of state law” for civil rights violations. For example, in Hordon v. Kitsap County Sheriff’s Dep’t, Ms. Cartwright represented a 71-year-old activist, Mr. Hordon, who displayed signs in a public park with messages including “Save Earth” and “VOTE.” After Mr. Hordon refused to remove his signs based on his First Amendment rights, he was arrested, held in jail for the night, and given a criminal trespass warning that banned him from the park for life. Mr. Hordon sued under § 1983, challenging the park’s signs policy and the county’s trespass procedure. As a result of the lawsuit, the park adopted a new policy that was more protective of First Amendment rights and the county agreed to make changes to its trespass procedure. Mr. Hordon also obtained a settlement for damages.
Ms. Cartwright has also handled various cases involving victims of police misconduct. In Dunlap v. King County, she represented the mother and estate of a Black high school senior, MiChance Dunlap-Gittens, who was shot and killed by King County Sherriff’s Officers during a nighttime, undercover sting operation. The officers who killed the teenager were looking for a different teenage boy who they incorrectly believed was involved in a fatal hit-and-run. Ms. Cartwright obtained a $2.25 million settlement, a statement apologizing for the loss of life, and an agreement between the Sherriff’s Office and family to advocate for the adoption of body-worn cameras by officers. In Thomas v. Cannon, she represented the family of Leonard Thomas, an unarmed Black man who was killed on his front porch by a SWAT sniper while he held his four-year-old son in his arms. Ms. Cartwright delivered the opening statement and examined eight witnesses during a three-week federal jury trial, which resulted in a $15 million verdict for the family. This was one of the largest civil rights verdicts in Washington state history.
Additionally, Ms. Cartwright has protected individuals from discrimination based on disability and race. In Choquette v. Warner, she represented Mr. Choquette, an incarcerated individual who was denied pain medication to treat his multiple sclerosis. When Mr. Choquette’s symptoms worsened, the Washington Department of Corrections denied requests to increase his prescription dosage and withheld medication altogether for five months. At the conclusion of a federal jury trial in which Ms. Cartwright delivered the opening statement and closing rebuttal and handled numerous witnesses, the jury found that the defendants violated Mr. Choquette’s Eighth Amendment rights by showing “deliberate indifference” to his pain and medical needs. He was awarded $549,000. From 2019 to 2021, Ms. Cartwright served as pro bono local counsel to the Campaign Legal Center in Aguilar v. Yakima County, a case litigated under the Washington Voting Rights Act. Latinx residents of Yakima County alleged they did not have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice, despite making up a majority of the county’s population. The case resulted in an agreement by Yakima County to adopt a single-member district election system for county commissioners and redraw district boundaries.
Ms. Cartwright has represented a wide range of plaintiffs in employment disputes, including restaurant workers, agricultural workers, healthcare workers, prison guards, sheet metal workers, and video game artists. In Murphy v. Wash. Dep’t of Corrections, she represented a corrections officer, Ms. Murphy, who was sexually harassed by a coworker. Investigation revealed that prior to his employment with the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC), the coworker had a long history of sexually harassing women and girls. Ms. Murphy’s lawsuit alleged that the WDOC failed to take adequate corrective action to remedy or prevent his actions, in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Before trial, a stipulated judgment of $282,500 was entered in favor of Ms. Murphy. In Roberts v. King County Department of Public Defense, Ms. Cartwright represented a career public defender with a significant hearing impairment who alleged that accommodations related to her disability were counted against her when she applied for a work promotion. See No. 17-2-13026-1 (Pierce Cty. Sup. Ct.). Ultimately, the case ended when Ms. Roberts decided to dismiss her claims.
Ms. Cartwright has worked to free innocent people who have been wrongfully imprisoned. Since 2018, she has represented two plaintiffs from the “Fairbanks Four,” a group of Alaska Native and Native American men who were wrongfully convicted for the murder of a white teenager and spent 17 years in prison. After substantial evidence came to light of their actual innocence and significant police misconduct, the State of Alaska offered to release the men from prison, vacate their convictions, and dismiss all charges against them, but only if all four men agreed to release their civil rights claims against the city and its police officers. After they were freed, the plaintiffs sued seeking to invalidate the release of their civil claims. The City of Fairbanks initially won a motion to dismiss; however, in 2020 the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that there were no outstanding criminal judgments against the men that would bar their civil rights claims. In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari, and the case is currently back in federal district court to determine the validity of the release.
In Browning v. Baker, Ms. Cartwright represented Paul Browning, who spent 33 years on Nevada’s Death Row for a murder he did not commit. The Ninth Circuit found that Mr. Browning’s conviction was the result of numerous constitutional violations, including the prosecutor withholding exculpatory evidence. After more than three decades in prison, the charges against him were finally dismissed in January 2020.
Professional Activities and Accolades
Outside of her legal practice, Ms. Cartwright devotes substantial time to professional and civic involvement. She has served on the Rules Committee of the Federal Bar Association of the Western District of Washington since 2016, where she helps identify and draft annual revisions to the local federal civil court rules. Additionally, since 2018 she has served on the Board of Directors for Legal Voice, an organization dedicated to advancing women’s rights throughout Washington state. Ms. Cartwright has written pro bono amicus briefs on behalf of Legal Voice and the Washington Employment Lawyers Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being recognized by Super Lawyers as a “Rising Star” in Washington for 2019–2021.